A FAMILY has been left devastated after a Christmas tree they planted near a teenager’s grave has gone missing.

Ben Walmsley died on February 4 and is buried at All Saints Church in Whitefield.

His father, Darren Walmsley, of Beechfield Avenue, Radcliffe, said: “Ben had always wanted a real Christmas tree, so this year we decided to give him one.”

Mr Walmsley, his ex-wife Jessica, and the couple’s three children planted the tree near to Ben’s grave on Sunday.

But when Mr Walmsley

visited the graveyard on

Tuesday afternoon he discovered the Christmas tree had gone.

“It wasn’t just the tree that was missing, it was the battery operated lights.

“They’d even taken the ornamental ‘B’ decoration.

“I couldn’t believe it. Christmas is about Jesus. This was sacrilege and desecration.

“I thought Christmas was supposed to be about giving, not taking.”

Mr Walmsley resorted to searching bins in the area for the missing tree.

“I was at it for about two hours and only gave up when it got dark.”

Unusually, the tree had not only been removed, but the hole had been refilled with soil.

“I thought it might have been maintenance workers who had taken it, but surely they would have left a notice or mentioned it to the vicar, I spoke to her

but she didn’t know anything about it. In the space of 12 months I’ve lost my dad, my grandson and my son, It’s been a rough year.”

The latest blow comes just weeks after the inquest into the death of Ben, who was a pupil at Philips High School.

“I’ve had enough heartache,” said Mr Walmsley. “This has knocked me for six.

“I don’t expect the tree will be returned but I just want whoever’s responsible to to feel ashamed of themselves.”

Sadly, the family have decided not to risk planting another tree. Instead they are making a Christmas wreath to lay on Ben’s grave.

“I just hope that doesn’t go missing too,” said Mr Walmsley.